“Jesus listened to this reply, and was astonished, and said to the people following Him, ‘I solemnly tell you that in no Israelite have I found faith as great as this.’”
- Matthew’s gospel account
A captain approached Jesus with a big problem. His servant is paralyzed and suffering great pain. Jesus says he will come and heal him, but the captain explains that he understands authority and that by merely commanding things, it is done. So he suggests that Jesus merely say that he would be healed and he knows it will be so.
Jesus is astonished.
He says that this Israelite’s unwavering and simple faith makes him the singular most astonishing person he has come across among all the others.
This guy may not have been the most regular attendee of the synagogue.
He may not know his scriptures very well.
He may not be seen as one of the most righteous among his people. (In fact, because of the way power was translated in his day, it was probably assumed he wasn’t the most ethical guy by position.)
He simply carried the deepest and truest belief in the power of Jesus’ authority. He was fully submitted in his simple conviction of what God, as a man, could do. Beautiful.
This story reminds me of one of my best friends. I have other friends that have a lot more experience as Christians. They’ve attended more church services, they know their scriptures better, and they are likely more immersed in the writings of Christian teachers and the bible than he. He is not the one that the casual observer would call a spiritual superstar.
But his faith regularly astonishes me. More than pretty much anyone else. He approaches God with a child-like wonder and depth of conviction that humbles me. His faith is unwavering and frankly unnerving at times. Always inspiring to me. It isn’t always based in deep theology of biblical scholarship, but it is so deep and complete that it often leaves me breathless and in tears.
Recently a non-Christian was asking him for advice. Their interaction up to this point had proven he was the kind of man even one with a different belief system would seek. His wisdom, humility, and kindness are not things you come across every day.
The younger man was within 10 minutes of a very challenging meeting that was hugely determinant for him. He wasn’t sure which way to go. He asked my friend a simple question:
“If you were me, what would you do?”
My friend doesn’t wrestle with pretense or the over-analyzing of where this guy is spiritually. He boldly tells him what he would do:
“If I were you, I would find a quiet place and pray to God for clarity and direction about what I should do."
No hedging of his bet. No over-explaining of his beliefs versus those of the other man. Clear, simple, and unapologetic. The younger man explains that he doesn’t share my friend’s faith (which they both already knew) and that he believes in karma and the stars.
This is the point where most of us would go theological or theoretical and exclude them from the rescue of our heavenly father because of his beliefs. Maybe, if we were really bold, we would say that we would pray for him anyway, ask him to let us know how it goes, and quickly get off the phone. That is precisely not what my friend does.
“Then I would get in a quiet place and cry out to karma or the stars, because when you earnestly cry out, I believe my God will show up.”
Set your theology aside. Don’t grab your concordance. Just let that sink in for a minute. The audacity of that…the simple and profound faith of that…that belief in the goodness of God and his desire to rescue all of his children…maybe even the ones that are a bit confused or don’t know him by name. A lump is forming in my throat again even as I type this.
As a younger and less mature man, I wanted to know more. I wanted to immerse myself more in understanding. I wanted to know my scriptures better and read more about our beliefs than anyone else. I wanted to be the most knowledgable, the most informed about our faith. Sadly, much of that was rooted in wanting to be esteemed among men.
Now, my destination is far more simple, but not easy. I want to be the kind of man that astonishes God with my faith. I want to carry an unwavering conviction and childlike wonder. I want to be more like my friend.
How much of your faith resides in your head instead of your heart?
Do you have the kind of unflinching conviction that would respond to an unbeliever like that?
Do you think your conviction and faith would astonish God or even astonish others like my friend?
How different would your life look like if you did?